United Aims to Make Wi-Fi Free, Too

The airline is the latest working to improve in-flight connectivity with the hopes of ultimately offering wireless internet free of charge.

United Aims to Make Wi-Fi Free, Too

Imagine sitting down and logging on without having to provide your credit card information.

Photo by Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock

United Airlines just became the most recent carrier to declare that it will eventually offer in-flight Wi-Fi for free.

Following Delta Air Lines’ announcement last spring that it plans on offering free in-flight Wi-Fi more broadly after an initial test run (though it hasn’t specified when), United Airlines president Scott Kirby stated during the company’s second-quarter earnings call last week that United has similar intentions.

“For the past year or so, we’ve been working towards a goal to get the system to a high enough level of reliability and bandwidth that we can make Wi-Fi free for our customers,” said Kirby during the call.

Kirby did not say when the carrier intends to start providing free in-flight Wi-Fi or whether it would only be available on domestic flights or on international flights as well.

United currently offers a North and Central America Wi-Fi subscription package for $49 per month (or 7,500 miles) or for $539 (or 80,000 miles) per year. To have access to Wi-Fi globally, it costs $69 (or 10,500 miles) per month, or $689 per year (or 100,000 miles).

The airline also offers hourly in-flight Wi-Fi rates and Wi-Fi day passes through several technology providers, including Gogo and ViaSat. Passes can be purchased up to 48 hours prior to departure and are available in the “amenities” section in the United app. Prices for the hourly rates and full-day passes range depending on the flight and the technology provider.

Wi-Fi is “incredibly important to our customers,” said Kirby, adding that the airline has significantly overhauled its software and hardware systems to improve connectivity. He said the airline has consequently already seen an improvement in customer satisfaction regarding its existing Wi-Fi offering.

The United executive noted that the carrier would have additional details on its Wi-Fi progress in the next fiscal quarter.

Currently, JetBlue is the only U.S.-based carrier with free Wi-Fi on all of its domestic flights.

>> Next: How Delta Plans to Make Flying International Economy Much More Pleasant

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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